Doctor Who: Come along, Ponds

KT thinks that fezzes are pretty cool.

DOCTOR WHO:  5.13 “The Big Bang”

Naturally, there’s no way this show would pick up directly from last week’s cliffhanger; instead we go back to another character I didn’t expect to see again:  seven-year-old Amelia Pond.  But this time she’s with her aunt and a therapist, who are troubled because Amelia keeps painting a night sky with stars, when everybody knows that stars don’t exist.

That’s not all that’s changed, as a trip to the museum tells us.  We see what seem to be fossilized Daleks (although if you think they won’t be shooting people within fifteen minutes, um, where have you been?).  I was also amused by an Egyptian figure who seems to be standing in a snowdrift, but Amelia is following notes that lead her to the Pandorica — clearly a prized exhibit.  She’s far braver than I would be, and hides behind the stuffed Nile penguins until the museum closes.  Putting her hand on the Pandorica makes it glow and start to open — but surprise!  It isn’t the Doctor.  It’s Amy.

From here on out, the episode gets timey-wimey in the extreme.  (You know, I kind of cringed at “timey-wimey” the first time I saw “Blink,” but it’s ridiculously useful for this show.)  Most of it’s because the Doctor has his hands on River’s vortex manipulator, at least until the Great Big Confusing Reset at the end.

At least at first, it’s great stuff.  I really enjoyed watching the puzzle come together:  Middle-of-the-Episode Doctor comes to help Rory open the Pandorica and swap the Doctor for Amy.  The Doctor is then able to jump forward to the museum to meet up with Amy and Amelia.  (Awfully convenient now that Amy decided to shorten her name!)  Rory prefers to take the long way in order to guard Amy through history (in the process creating a sweet little legend about the centurion who watches over the Pandorica), and shows up at an opportune moment as a museum security guard.  By this point, we’re running from that Dalek, of course.

Rory points out that we’ve now reached Middle-of-the-Episode Doctor, so now we see the earlier scenes from this point of view, and while we’re at it, we see the Doctor set up the clues Amelia followed earlier in the day.  Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, indeed.  But to up the stakes, Later-in-the-Episode Doctor appears, whispers something into the Doctor’s ear and apparently dies.  (Whut.)

Amy and Rory are pretty distressed too, but the Doctor distracts them by pointing out Amelia’s disappearance.  Plotwise, it’s a convenient way to get the child out of harm’s way now that she’s played her part, though the story explanation has to do with the way that time and the universe are now shrinking down to nothing, apparently caused by the TARDIS explosion that Van Gogh painted last week.  Handily, the explosion turns out to be right in front of them:  since all the stars have gone out, what’s this thing burning in the sky?  The TARDIS, with River trapped inside in a ten-second time loop that the Doctor tidily pops into and pulls her out of.  (Say, that vortex manipulator’s a lot more precise than the TARDIS often is, isn’t it?)  So now at least the gang’s all back together.

[After the jump:
the episode takes a left turn.]

Despite that, this particular chase sequence is nearly over.  After a little more babble-y exposition from the Doctor, he gets nailed by the Dalek and pops back twelve minutes to talk to himself.  While River nails the Dalek in return — making it beg for mercy in the process, which is eerily un-Dalek-like — Rory and Amy find that the Doctor’s body is not where they left it twelve minute ago; he’s used them as a diversion and gone to wire the vortex manipulator into the Pandorica so he can fly it into the heart of the exploding TARDIS and save the universe.

It’s presented as a suicide mission, and as the others sit in the red light of a collapsing universe, everyone gets very somber.  Before he goes, the Doctor suggests to Amy that when she wakes up, the people who ought to be filling up her big, empty house will have returned – she’ll have her parents back, but he’ll be gone.  No more need for an imaginary friend, he says.  Funny and bittersweet.

But before Amy wakes up, we have a bizarre sequence in which the Doctor revisits his time with Amy (including a previously unseen trip to Space Florida.  Hee).  He’s unraveling, but somehow she’s the one person who can hear him.   She doesn’t seem able to see him, though, so he can only really communicate when her eyes are closed — like during the second part of the Angel story.  Sharp-eyed commenter AKY called this when that episode first aired, and sure enough, “Remember what I told you when you were seven,” was the Doctor popping in from another point in time and referring to something we hadn’t even seen yet.  I think that, since the “Remember” scene was included in the Angel episode, we’re meant to assume that the vignettes in this sequence are not changes to the timeline, but were always there.  Confusing, since it implies that the events that put him here, including the TARDIS explosion and the collapse of the universe, are also an intrinsic part of the timeline, but let’s go with it.

The second half of this episode goes a little crazy with the tonal shifts, starting at about the point where the Dalek shoots the Doctor.  When Amy wakes up back in her house, we go into a bit of high comedy:  here are her parents, who don’t understand why she’s surprised to see them.  And neither does she understand it.  It’s her wedding day, though, and all goes well until she finds herself crying at the reception.  We see River out the window:  she’s brought Amy her blue TARDIS diary, but it’s blank.  Rory thinks it might have something to do with the old wedding rhyme, and that’s enough to trigger Amy’s memory.  Interrupting her father’s toast, she tells the guests about her imaginary friend, the Raggedy Doctor, and that while he wasn’t imaginary at all, he is now late for her wedding.  Right on cue, there’s her something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and out steps the Doctor, not raggedy at all, but looking very spiffy in a tuxedo and top hat.

I can only assume that the assembled guests took the TARDIS’s appearance for a very clever magic trick.

Happily, from there on, it’s a party.  Everyone dances, and the Doctor congratulates Rory as the new Mr. Pond.  And I suppose this is as good an opportunity as any to say how much I’ve grown to like Rory.  I particularly like the way Arthur Darvill has settled into his character over the course of the season.  At this point, I just love watching his face: as the Doctor rambles on, Rory will go from puzzled to patient to bemused and back again, and sometimes that’s as funny as what’s actually being said.

Returning to the TARDIS later in the evening, the Doctor runs into River and returns her diary.  It’s no longer blank, which I think is meant to tell us that now the Doctor’s back in the world, all the people who are supposed to remember him do, and all the things he’s done have still happened.  That’s another thing that doesn’t hold up well if you look at it straight on, so let’s just glance from the corners of our eyes and move on.

We are easily distracted — or at least I was — by an awkward and amusing exchange about River’s marital status and she drops the Doctor some hints about how he’ll learn more about her very soon.  She leaves just in time for the newlyweds to burst in, wondering where he’s off to next.  He points out that while they have solved the crack-in-time problem, there’s still the matter of The Silence that has been hinted at all season — set-up for season 6, I can only assume.  We end with an intriguing telephone call, something about an Egyptian goddess loose on the Orient Express in space — presumably the Christmas special.  I think that sounds fantastic and apparently Rory and Amy do too, as they wave goodbye to Leadworth and head off on a fantastic adventure of a honeymoon!

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4 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Come along, Ponds

  1. Although i was right about that part, i had a few other theories which didnt seem to pan out. No ducks in the pond, the cracks due to Waters of Mars episode. Oh well, you shoot enough bullets, your bound to hit something. Though i did pause the TV at that part and pointed out to my finacee, “SEE! i told you! i knew it.” Of course she just smilled and had no idea what i was talking about. While watching, i thought the episode was great. After reflecting for a day i have a few fanboy complaints, many of which you alluded to already. One of mine was the Pandorica as the “ultimate box” was easily opened by Rory using some tech he has no idea how to use, yet the doctor couldnt during the last episode? I also have come to like Rory. Maybe they are writting better for him, or he has grown into his character, but much less annoying. The episode came together too nicely, which i always have an issue with. We always want the hero to succeed, but i feel it was too easy this time around. Though the bit at the end where he was talking to sleeping Amelia about his “new but ancient TARDIS that he borrowed” was fantastic. In all, i liked how we were seeded with hints along the way during the season, just wished there were more.

    As for Matt Smith, after one season he has the aloof-ness of the doctor down. But but when its time to get down to business, his speaches seem too rehersed and done have the authroity that you feel they should. His speaches to those who might cross him need to have the boldness and authority of a 900 year old being that knows for a fact he can beat you.

  2. Yeah, looks like the duckless pond was just a red herring. I’m still impressed, though, ’cause I didn’t notice the jacket/no jacket switch in “Flesh and Stone,” even after watching it twice. Must’ve been staring at Amy’s freckles.

    One of mine was the Pandorica as the “ultimate box” was easily opened by Rory … yet the doctor couldnt during the last episode?

    I can answer this one after watching that episode twice, haha. Take another look at “The Pandorica Opens.” As the Doctor is examining the box he does say (to River, I think, maybe to Amy) that he could open it, but wants to figures out what’s inside first. It’s an aside in one of those scenes where he does a lot of fast talking (which narrows it down not at all; sorry), so it is easy to miss.

    I do like Matt Smith. I love his mannerisms and the aloofness and facial expressions. But that said, I agree that he doesn’t have quite the touch with the Big Climactic Final “Up Yours, Bad Guys!” Speech that Tennant and Eccleston could put into their best episodes. Those two could really get a little scary sometimes. I think that’s okay — I don’t mind if this Doctor is a little less Galactic Policeman and a little more Sneaky Galactic Mischief Maker. Variety is nice. But now that we’ve all seen where Smith’s strengths are, I hope the writers play to that for the next season.

    …And I just wish we didn’t have to wait until next spring for next season to get here!

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